Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Steve Hays and Jason Engwer vs. Dr. Charles Hodge

I finally had some ‘spare’ time this morning to browse a few blogs/websites that I have not accessed in a number weeks. A thread concerning justification at Called to Communion by Bryan Cross caught my attention. Bryan’s thread is a response to certain comments made by two anti-Catholic epologists: Steve Hays and Jason Engwer. Since I am somewhat ‘late-to-the-party’, I have been attempting to trace the original source that has spawned this new round of discussions on justification; I believe that I have done so, and shall suggest that it is this October 30, 2009 post by Jason which has initiated at least 4 subsequent threads (including Bryan’s), and well over 100 comments, on issues pertaining to the doctrine of justification. For those who may be interested, the links to the other 3 threads are as follows:




[If there are other pertinent threads that I have missed, I sincerely hope that readers who are aware of such will provide the link/s to them in the combox.]

Now, to Jason’s 10-30-09 comments (linked to above), from which we read:

The apostle Paul said that one error, the adding of works to the gospel, was sufficient to create a false gospel that doesn’t save. The “only thing” Paul wanted to know from the Galatians was how they received justification (Galatians 3:2). And Evangelicals and Catholics disagree about how justification is received. The difference between justification through faith alone and justification through faith and works is the difference between a true gospel and a false gospel. Catholics can be saved as individuals, but only in spite of their denomination’s false gospel. Catholics can be Christians as individuals, but Catholicism isn’t Christian by apostolic standards.

IMO, after browsing through most of the comments (but not all, my eyes get tired/sore after so much monitor reading), the above is the PRMARY ISSUE that needs to be addressed: is it true that “Catholicism isn’t Christian by apostolic standards”; does the Catholic Church teach “a false gospel”? So says Jason, and so many other anti-Catholic epologists and ‘popular’ Evangelical authors (e.g. R. C. Sproul, John MacArthur, James White). Though Bryan and other Catholic posters have been addressing some of the important aspects concerning justification, if one does not deal DIRECTLY with Jason’s charges, the outcome is going to a mixed-bag at best. So, in an attempt to deal with this issue head-on, I shall invoke the scholarship of one of the greatest Reformed minds that Christianity has yet to produce—Charles Hodge. Dr. Hodge penned the following:

Does the Church of Rome retain truth enough to save the soul ? We do not understand how it is possible for any Christian man to answer this question in the negative. They retain the doctrine of the Incarnation, which we know from the infallible word of God, is a life-giving doctrine. They retain the whole doctrine of the Trinity. They teach the doctrine of atonement far more fully and accurately than multitudes of professedly orthodox Protestants. They hold a much higher doctrine, as to the necessity of divine influence, than prevails among many whom we recognize as Christians. They believe in the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and in eternal life and judgment. These doctrines are in their creeds, and however they may be perverted and overlaid, still as general propositions they are affirmed. And it must be remembered, that it is truth presented in general propositions, and not with subtle distinctions, that saves the soul. Protestants, says Bossuet, cannot deny that we admit the fundamentals of religion. “If they will have them to consist in believing that we must adore one only God, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost ; and that we must put our trust in God alone through his Son, who became man, was crucified, and rose again for us, they know in their conscience that we profess this doctrine ; and if they add those other doctrines which are contained in the Apostles’ Creed, they do not doubt that we receive them all without exception.” Having quoted an admission to this effect from Daille, he adds : “But though M. Daille had not granted thus much, the thing is manifest in itself; and all the world knows that we profess all those doctrines which Protestants call fundamental.” *

* An Exposition of the Doctrines of the Catholic Church, by the Right Rev. J. B. Bossuet, London, 1685, p. 2. On Justification, Bossuet says : “We believe, in the first place, that our sins are freely forgiven us by the divine mercy, for Christ’s sake. These are the express words of the council of Trent. . . . seeing the Scriptures explain the remission of sins, by sometimes telling us that God covers them, and sometimes that he takes them away and blots them out by the grace of his Holy Spirit, which makes us new creatures ; we believe that to form a perfect idea of the justification of a sinner, we must join together both of these expressions. For which reason we believe our sins not only to be covered, but also entirely washed away by the blood of Jesus Christ, and by the grace of regeneration ; which is so far from obscuring or lessening that idea which we ought to have of the merit of his blood, on the contrary it heightens and augments it. So that the righteousness of Christ is not only imputed but actually communicated to the faithful, by the operation of his Holy Spirit, insomuch that they are not only reputed, but rendered just by his grace.” p. 12. It is easy to see here the unhappy blending of justification and sanctification together; but it is a far better statement of the truth than is to be found in multitudes of Arminian writers ; and unspeakably better than that, which for a hundred years, was preached from the great majority of the pulpits in the Church of England. Romanists teach that Christ is the meritorious ground of our justification. Thus the council of Trent, sess. vi. c. 7, says : Meritoria (causa) est diledissimus Dei unic/enitus, qui cum csseinus inimici, per nimiam caritatem, qua dilexit nos, sua sanctissima passione in Urjno crucis, nobis justificadonem meruit. And in c 8, the council says: “Christum sanctissima sua passione in ligno crucis nobis justificationem meruisse, et pro nobis Deo Patri safisfecisse, et neminem posse essejustum, nisi cui mertta passionis Domini nostril Jcsu Christi communicantur.” In like manner, Bellarmin, de Justificatione, ii. c. 2, says : “We are justified on account of the merits of Christ ;” and in c 7, he says, “If Protestants only mean that the merits of Christ are imputed to us, because they are given to us by God, so that we can present them to the Father for our sins since Christ undertook to make satisfaction for us, and to reconcile us to God the Father, they are right.” Which is precisely what we do mean.
(Charles Hodge, Discussions In Church Polity, 1876, pp. 208, 209.]

[For more insightful reflections on this important issue from Dr. Hodge, see

With all due respect to our epologists, I am going to side with the erudite assessments of Dr. Hodge…

Grace and peace,


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

“Sister Churches” – Unity between Catholic and Orthodox Churches

A gentleman named Edward Reiss has been making some bold assertions concerning the unity (or lack thereof) that exists between the Catholic Church and a number of the Eastern Orthodox Churches in the comment box of a recent Beggars All thread.

Edward posted the following:


"You must also be aware of the RCC and EO teaching that Prots lack certain sacramental benefits to found only among those who have valid “orders”; so, I would say that obstacles do exist, but that they are not insurmountable obstacles."

To be fair, the Orthodox do not think you guys have valid orders, either. I don't want to go over this again, but your statement here seems to imply unity between the EOs and RCs which does not actually exist. (4:35 PM, DECEMBER 18, 2009.)

I took issue with his charge that “the Orthodox do not think you guys have valid orders”, providing commentary and links that questioned his position (feel free to read through the comments in the thread linked to above for full context). After 4 days of back and forth dialogue, Edward is still clinging on to his original charge as evidenced by his following comments posted yesterday afternoon:

Davis[sic] Waltz,

"Once again, EO bishops are not in communion with the Bishop of Rome, yet this very fact does not preclude those bishops from having valid succession, ordination, and sacraments."

It does by EO lights, if not by RC lights.

"Do you think that all the valid ordinations of those bishops in communion with the Bishop of Rome became invalid with the excommunication of three papal legates in 1054? (Excommunications that have been rescinded.) "

They became invalid when, by EO lights, the Patriarch of Rome left the One True Church to follow his private interpretation of the Tradition. The idea that there is a valid succession not in fellowship woith the One True Church is simply not EO ecclesiology. But again, let us take this discussion out of the theoretical:Where do a simple majority of Patriarchs and/or bishops say RC orders are valid? (3:59PM, DECEMBER 22, 2009.)

Given the length of my following response to Edward, I felt it best to post it here at Articuli Fidei:

From the Vatican II document, Orientalium Ecclesiarum we read:

25. If any separated Eastern Christian should, under the guidance of the grace of the Holy Spirit, join himself to the unity of Catholics, no more should be required of him than what a bare profession of the Catholic faith demands. Eastern clerics, seeing that a valid priesthood is preserved among them, are permitted to exercise the Orders they possess on joining the unity of the Catholic Church, in accordance with the regulations established by the competent authority. (Online access HERE - bold emphasis mine.)

From the “Balamand Statement” we read:

12) Because of the way in which Catholics and Orthodox once again consider each other in relationship to the mystery of the Church and discover each other once again as Sister Churches, this form of "missionary apostolate" described above, and which has been called "uniatism", can no longer be accepted either as a method to be followed nor as a model of the unity our Churches are seeking.

13) In fact, especially since the Pan-Orthodox Conferences and the Second Vatican Council, the rediscovery and the giving again of proper value to the Church as communion, both on the part of Orthodox and of Catholics, has radically altered perspectives and thus attitudes. On each side it is recognized that what Christ has entrusted to His Church—profession of apostolic faith, participation in the same sacraments, above all the one priesthood celebrating the one sacrifice of Christ, the apostolic succession of bishops—cannot be considered the exclusive property of one of our Churches. In this context it is clear that rebaptism must be avoided.

14) It is in this perspective that the Catholic Churches and the Orthodox Churches recognize each other as Sister Churches, responsible together for maintaining the Church of God in fidelity to the divine purpose, most especially in what concerns unity. According to the words of Pope John Paul II, the ecumenical endeavor of the Sister Churches of East and West, grounded in dialogue and prayer, is the search for perfect and total communion which is neither absorption nor fusion but a meeting in truth and love (cf. Slavorum Apostoli, n. 27). [The Full Text of the Balamand Statement HERE - bold emphasis mine.]

And Vlaimir Kharlamov in his important essay, “Vatican II and the Eastern Orthodox Church” (Journal of Ecumenical Studies, 38:2-3, Spring/Summer 2001, p. 186 – online version HERE) provides the following quote from the EO Synodal Theological Commission:

Vatican II called the Orthodox Church a Sister Church, thus recognizing the blessed nature of the Orthodox Church and the salvifíc nature of her sacraments. The Orthodox Church, in her turn, always recognized the validity of the sacraments of the Catholic Church. The evidence to that is the fact that the Catholic Christians are accepted into the Orthodox Church by the so-called Third Order for joining the Orthodox membership—not through Baptism, as non-Christians or sectarians, nor through Chrismation, like the Protestants, but through repentance, like schismatics. Roman Catholic clergymen are accepted in their existing orders to which they had been ordained by the Roman Catholic Church.

It is no coincidence that Old Believers, who are also in schism from the Orthodox Church are accepted back in the same manner as the Roman Catholic Christians.

This fact shows that despite serious fundamental differences on a number of doctrinal and spiritual issues between the two Churches, Roman Catholicism in the Orthodox mind and Tradition is viewed as a Christian community in schism with the Orthodox Church which nevertheless has preserved apostolic succession.

…The Balamand Document adds nothing fundamentally new, but follows in the manner of the traditional Orthodox attitude to Catholicism. At the same time, the Synodal Theological Commission of the Russian Orthodox Church finds it important to clarify a number of the Document's affirmations, including the use of the term 'sister Churches' in the text, which was motivated by emotions rather than by dogmatic considerations.
(Bold emphasis mine.)

I sincerely hope (and believe) that I have put to rest Edward's bold assertions.

He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” (Matt. 11:15)

Grace and peace,


Saturday, December 12, 2009

James White and the Manhattan Declaration

I have not been over to James White’s AOMIN site in awhile; so, while sipping my freshly brewed (and ground) Italian roast coffee, I thought I would take a peek.

It comes as no surprise that James is using the “Manhattan Declaration” as a platform for his anti-Catholic polemics. In his 12-10-09 thread, Sproul, Colson, and You, on the Manhattan Declaration, his polemic begins with a sweeping charge leveled at Chuck Colson:

Once again we see that for Charles Colson, the gospel is no longer a part of "the faith" that he refuses to compromise. That is, "the faith" has been boiled down to a skeleton of basic beliefs (Trinity, resurrection) that can unite varied and disparate religious traditions into one big (and politically powerful) group. This Least Common Denominator (LCD) form of "Christianity" is what is needed, evidently, to "revitalize the church in America." I cannot help but shake my head in disbelief as someone promotes a gospel-less Christianity and says this is what the church needs to be "revitalized" today. But it is truly a matter for deep concern that Mr. Colson believes this document is a "form of catechism for the foundational truths of the faith." How can this gospel-less document be a catechism for anything other than cultural Christianity?

IMO, James has completely missed the nature/focus of MD: it is primarily a cultural, societal, political document; yet with that said, this does not make it “gospel-less”. Note the following from St. Paul’s pen (written under inspiration):

But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully; Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine; According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust. (1 Tim. 1:8-11.)

James then made this statement:

Without the gospel, you cannot change hearts and minds.

Amen!!! But what is “the gospel”? My threads on JUSTIFICATION and SOTERIOLOGY raise some serious concerns as to whether or not James really understands what “the gospel” is.

Further, if one grants to James that his understanding of “the gospel” is without error, one then cannot ignore the many questions which have been brought to light in MATTHEW HECKEL’S ESSAY, “Is R.C. Sproul Wrong About About Luther? An Analysis of R.C. Sproul’s Faith Alone: The Evangelical Doctrine of Justification with Respect to Augustine, Luther, Calvin, and Catholic Luther Scholarship.”

And lastly, James’ statement is a bit confusing, for James is a 5-point Calvinist. Is it not the Calvinist teaching that an unregenerate heart cannot accept/respond to “the gospel”; that God regenerates the heart so that one can/will accept/embrace “the gospel”?

Grace and peace,


Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Manhattan Declaration

Back on November 20th, 2009, an ecumenical document called the “Manhattan Declaration” was released (full text HERE). Three prominent Evangelicals (Robert George, Timothy George, and Chuck Colson) constituted the “drafting committee”; many more Evangelical and Catholic “leaders” have signed the document (HERE).

However, as with the famous “Evangelcals & Catholics Together” document (full text HERE), some Evangelicals are not ‘happy’ with the “Manhattan Declaration”, and have used the release of the document to renew the tired, old, and patently false charge, that the Catholic Church is not a Christian church. The following are but a few examples:

R. C. Sproul

Mike Horton

John MacArthur

Alistair Begg

Seems that some things just never change…

Grace and peace,